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5 artists who make beautiful works of art from trash

In an age of overconsumption, many artists are using the products of our excess to make powerful statements about waste. Others simply find poetry in transforming the discarded into something beautiful. Whatever the motivation, the results of their work are often breathtaking and always thought-provoking. Here are five such artists whose work stands out:

Paul Villinski

Paul Villinski creates ethereal sculptures of butterflies out of an unlikely source: crushed beer cans found on the streets of New York. The artist has long made use of and admired the butterfly as a symbol of frailty and habitat dependence, a condition both shared and ignored by humanity. Each discarded can undergoes a metamorphosis in his studio, emerging with delicate wings as a reminder of our precarious place on this planet.

Aurora Robson

Aurora Robson creates extraordinary sculptures and installations from plastic debris, a process she calls “intercepting the waste stream.” Appearing like organic forms from a beautiful, alien planet, the colorful sculptures have the delicacy of blown glass, their lightness of form contradicting the origins of their materials. For Robson, art is about infusing the negative with positivity and inspiring others to similarly transform waste into objects of beauty. An activist as well as an artist, her work is sold to support environmental awareness and reclamation projects around the world.

Sayaka Ganz

Japanese artist Sayaka Ganz breathes new life into discarded objects through her exquisite, kinetic sculptures. Her spirited creations use reclaimed plastic materials, such as cutlery and toys, to depict animals in motion. The results are graceful, lively forms whose movements through space are palpable. According to Ganz, her work aims to reestablish the natural world in urban spaces, inciting a sense of wonder at the beauty of life.

Barry Rosenthal

A lifelong collector, artist Barry Rosenthal’s gaze turned towards garbage one day while he struggled to locate plants to photograph during a trip to the beach. The result was Found in Nature, a series of large scale groupings of discarded objects all found on local shores. Arranged thematically on a white backdrop then photographed, the groupings convey not only a quirky beauty but an unequivocal message about consumption and waste.

Justin Gignac

In 2001, New York City artist Justin Gignac set out to prove the importance of package design to his coworkers by successfully selling something they thought no one would buy. To date, he has sold over 1,400 attractively designed cubes of garbage, mainly from New York City, but also in special editions such as Obama’s Inauguration and St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. His business is still going strong, and for fifty dollars you too can have your very own one of a kind cube of garbage.